ROCHESTER — Casey’s General Store’s march into Racine County took another big step forward Monday, with the Village of Rochester giving the green light for the gas station chain to set up shop at the busy intersection of highways 20 and 36.
The Rochester Plan Commission approved the site and operational plan for a Casey’s to be built at 2728 Beck Drive (Highway 20), at the northwest corner of the intersection. The ordinance to re-zone the property to allow a business was passed by the Village Board on Jan. 8.
Construction could begin once the Rochester village engineer approves a plan to deal with drainage at the site so a store would not negatively affect neighboring properties. The home currently on the lot would be razed.
Casey’s General Stores will still need to commit to the project, but James Pistillo, Casey’s vice president of accounting and treasurer, sounded optimistic Monday about the possibility of the store being built.
“It does not mean that we are officially (authorizing) it, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Pistillo. “It’s a matter of our team figuring out what to do next.”
Casey’s General Stores is planning on the Rochester site being open from 5 a.m. to midnight, pending approval. According to Pistillo, stores are often constructed in four to six months.
The plan passed after the Plan Commission and multiple citizens voiced concerns about drainage issues, as well as parking and traffic complications in previous meetings. Residents who live in a nearby home complained of water from the currently empty lot seeping into their basement. There are concerns that the proposed store would make the issue worse.
Representatives for the engineering company for Casey’s, Arc Design Resources, was present at the meeting and worked to alleviate those concerns by offering to build an underground detention system adjacent to the proposed building.
However, this action was seen by the neighbors present at the meeting as only a temporary solution to the excess amount of water that has been present in that area for years.
“We don’t want people at every meeting saying that our yard is flooding,” said Mike Weinkauf, chair of the commission.
Casey’s realizes that its business will affect others, Pistillo said.
“It’s not uncommon that there are hurdles to clear anytime you build a location,” Pistillo said. “It’s important to talk to those who will be impacted and take into consideration of those who are in the area.”
Commission member Patricia Gerber voiced the concern of the community, but also said that this problem was likely to persist no matter what structure was built there.
“We have to trust in our engineer that he will have the drainage covered,” said Gerber. If we don’t approve this, we will still have the same issues.”
Other issues that were discussed at the meeting included parking and traffic backup near the intersection where the store would be constructed. The plan for the site calls for 37 parking stalls, not including parking that will be available for cars parked at pumps. That number was agreed upon by the commission.
The possible increase in traffic was also discussed. However, officials from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said they didn’t think the volume from the store would make a difference in traffic.
“The real issue is going to be getting in and out of there at certain times of the day,” said Plan Commission member Mark Tamblyn.
Another gas station?
Casey’s General Stores have been expanding across Wisconsin for the past few months. They are currently evaluating a “double digit” number of potential locations in Wisconsin, according to Pistillo. The company has already opened its first Racine County location at the site of a former Shell station at the intersection of Highway 20 and Buena Park Road in Waterford.
Some in Rochester see the proposed Casey’s as a welcome addition, while others question if there is really a need for another gas station. There are currently four gas stations in the two-mile radius of the Beck Drive site, including two Mobil stations and a BP.
Boni Weis, Owner of Java Jo’z, 29134 Evergreen Drive, has lived in the area since 1957.
“It would be great to have some additional jobs in the area, especially for kids,” said Weis. “More people will also slow down to stop, so it will definitely be good for my business and for Highway 36, as well.”
But Mary Hurst, a local businesswoman in Rochester, says that another gas station isn’t what this area needs.
“I think that there’s only so much gas to be sold in this area,” said Hurst. “Is there really a need for another gas station?”